UnicefCEO2

This Wednesday, April 27, the Portland Timbers and Thorns FC will join together in a unique, coed charity match – PTFC for Peace – to benefit UNICEF USA and their global efforts to help children affected by the war in Ukraine (6pm PT, TICKETS, Timbers.com).

Among the people attending Wednesday night is Michael J. Nyenhuis, President and CEO of UNICEF USA. Nyenhuis has over 25 years of global humanitarian and development experience having worked and lead numerous global NGOs and endeavors. He also happens to be a pretty big Portland soccer fan. He chatted with us to talk about what UNICEF does, why this game matters and how he became a fan of soccer in the Rose City.

Let’s start big picture. What does UNICEF do on a global scale and, more specifically, what are they doing to support those affected by the conflict in Ukraine?

"UNICEF works on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children. Our programs in more than 190 countries and territories strive to give every child an equitable chance to be healthy, educated and protected. We’ve worked in Ukraine for 25 years and our staff are there now distributing relief supplies, providing health care, supporting children with trauma counseling and more. And we are working in neighboring countries where children and families have crossed borders as refugees, including in Romania, where I recently visited to see the work firsthand."

I hear that you’re a Portland soccer fan. Can you share a little bit about your support of the Timbers and Thorns?

"I’ve visited Portland numerous times and am very fond of the city. I’ve had the chance to see firsthand the passion Portland has for its soccer teams – and the passion the Timbers and Thorns have for their community. It's infectious, and I caught the bug! I’m proud to display my Timbers scarf at home in Connecticut, and catch games on television and streaming whenever I can."

Why are games like the PTFC for Peace charity match important?

"There has been an incredible outpouring of support across the United States for the people of Ukraine who are suffering terribly in the midst of this war. We’re overwhelmed with gratitude, and we need to stay focused on how we can support them and the cause of peace. This unique match is one important way to continue to draw attention to this crisis and the important work UNICEF is doing to support the children and families affected."

I know you’re coming to the match. What are you most looking forward to seeing?

"I’m most looking forward to seeing the Timbers Army and all of the fans of the Timbers and Thorns in action. They are what make soccer in Portland so incredible. The atmosphere they create at Providence Park is unlike any other in the United States and rivals that of soccer stadiums anywhere in the world. To witness them direct their passion in support of their teams – and in support of the people of Ukraine – will be amazing."